Neither is Carlos haunted by paths not taken. "I don't think of that," he says. "I think of all the billions who come through this bubble, this life. He could have made me Gladys Knight. He could have made me Michelangelo. But He made me John Carlos to make His statement in life."
Carlos, too, takes comfort in his family. His son, Malik, 21, is a Marine lance corporal. He is a hygiene equipment operator in the 1st Medical Battalion, and he served in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war, helping to bag the bodies of combat casualties. "When he was in boot camp," says Carlos, "some Marine drill sergeants got him in a circle. They screamed at him, 'Are you the son of the guy who disgraced my country?' He kept his head up and took it. And he came home and said, 'Daddy, I'm a good Marine because of you. I'm a fighter, just like you.' "
Smith was right to worry about losing his life when he sent his arm into the Mexican evening 23 years ago. His and Carlos's lives were indeed caught and held by that act. They became their gesture.
In the ensuing decades, both men have demonstrated the truth of Twain's discouraging words about American freedom of speech and conscience. And now, perhaps, they have outlived most of the sting of those words. Now, their gesture becomes them.
When freedom called, they stood up. They still stand.